In less than ten years, the novelist and poet Jean Ajalbert, who is also a man of action, has turned the Malmaison, which had almost no memories of the past, into a highly interesting museum. And now, as the appointed administrator of the Tapestry Manufacture in Beauvais, he is successfully reviving its silence. At the same time, he is an active, ingenious, jovial shaker of inertia and a convinced regionalist. He organizes "art seasons" in Beauvais that attract many visitors to this charming old town, and he particularly highlights the art of the region.
Among the noble works, few or almost unknown, such as tapestries and the Desportes workshop, which Mr. Jean Ajalbert draws our attention to this year at the Cathedral, City Hall, Museum, or the Manufacture in Beauvais, there are very interesting specimens of ancient pottery from Beauvaisis. Most of them have been loaned by a knowledgeable collector from the region, Mr. de Carrère.
I confess that I did not suspect their interest and charm. These coarse and simple-shaped stoneware and glazed earthenware, which have been manufactured since the Middle Ages in Savignies and various other neighboring locations, were a revelation to me. In addition to their inherent merits of material, shape, and adornment, these interesting ceramic pieces reveal distant local traditions that, probably due to the particular qualities of the clay in this region - highly praised by Bernard Palissy - were never completely abandoned. They were collected by a native of the region, Auguste Delaherche, who, living in this corner of Beauvaisis, drew inspiration as a poet from all the delicate beauties that nature in this region offered to his sensibility and taste. Working with the clay that several generations of local potters had used, he became a great and glorious ceramic artist.
It is this noble contemporary artist who, as one might expect, is the triumphant figure of this captivating "art season" in Beauvais. And certainly, readers of Art et Décoration will not be surprised. Thanks to the numerous reviews that this magazine has given over the years of the exhibitions in which Auguste Delaherche regularly participated, especially thanks to the beautiful and comprehensive study published in 1906 by the late Roger Marx on the entirety of his remarkable work, and also thanks to a highly interesting article by Mr. André Saglio on a stoneware decoration by this masterfully individual creator, the faithful readers of this art publication are well aware of Auguste Delaherche's efforts, the stages of his laborious life, and the achievements that characterize each of them. However, apart from the splendid overall exhibition that Delaherche graciously held in 1907 in our free and vibrant French house, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, this is the first time he has consented to gather pieces from all stages of his life.
The new possibility of such a comprehensive study was all the more desirable because Delaherche showed almost nothing during the war, and since the significant study by Roger Marx and the creations that followed, the inventive and talented artist from La Chapelle-aux-Pots has flourished with the delicate array of finely perforated and engraved porcelain surrounding his majestic stoneware and its nuanced splendor. It is an entirely new body of work, with the most exquisite artistry, silently added by this industrious creator to his already powerful and subtly sumptuous oeuvre, which has long earned him well-deserved fame.
Undoubtedly, even before the war and in the various exhibitions that followed, Auguste Delaherche's display cases delighted us with some of these precious wonders, where his decorative skill, refinement, and poetic sensitivity are evident. They complement Auguste Delaherche's work without hindering the always magnificent blooming of his resplendent stoneware with its vibrant and fresh iridescence. On the contrary, it seems that benefiting from the delicacy and grace that the great ceramist displays in his dream-like porcelain pieces, never before have the flows of his enamels on the harmonious curves of his vases exhibited more subtlety and splendor. Similarly, in these latest pieces, which evoke a remarkably animated bronze with multicolored reflections and gleams, one is captivated by their profound and severe magnificence. The eyes and the mind are enchanted by symphonies of lilacs, blues, pinks, greens, and ranges of grays and yellows, of the tenderest and finest richness.
At the Museum of Beauvais, and then at the Tapestry Manufacture, after observing how the earliest pieces by Auguste Delaherche - this native of Beauvaisis - especially those he created in a makeshift installation, Italian-style, near Beauvais, are connected to the good traditions of local ceramics, one notices with what vigor and beautiful decorative sense the strong personality of such an artist emerges as soon as he can work at home on rue Blomet in Paris from 1887 onwards. Later, in Héricourt, already within the territory of the municipality of La Chapelle-aux-Pots where, since 1894, he has had his workshop and permanent kilns, in a beautiful area geographically known as Armentières but more evocatively called "Les sables rouges" (The red sands), he is magnificently himself.
His great original merits shine brightly. His art reveals itself in the simple and powerful beauty that has always been known. Through the experiences and reflections, impressions, research, and discoveries of this artist, what life and passionate labor gradually bring into a person's creations, Auguste Delaherche's work becomes more embellished by simplifying its powerful forms and enriching its color with more subtle harmonies. But almost from the beginning, this great ceramist found his path. For almost forty years, since he began producing, there has been incessant exploration, fortunate discoveries, a richer and more varied profusion, but never the slightest sign of disturbance or unease under the influence of passing trends or ideas. For forty years, this thoughtful and artistic giant has known where he wants to go and has been going there.
As I drive through the wooded hills of Beauvaisis towards La Chapelle-aux-Pots - where, after admiring Auguste Delaherche's work in the hall of the Manufacture where it is gathered to delight us, I wanted to have the joy of surprising its creator in his daily labor - I tried to clarify for myself the modifications that best characterize the slow evolution of our illustrious ceramic artist's art over these forty years (Auguste Delaherche was a very young man when he began his work, and now, after casting so much beauty upon the world, he is in full creative force, and his work has never been more inventive, fruitful, or inspired).
As I summed up my own impressions of his vases, bowls, bottles, wall and fireplace coverings, and charming decorations for modern heating devices, I said to myself, "With what certainty and willpower does this artist, born with the best gifts of a decorator and having acquired the means to harmoniously realize all the beautiful combinations of lines and colors that form in his mind under the inspiration of nature, increasingly pursue the simplest forms and the most restrained decorations!"
Initially, without sparing ornaments, he did not deprive himself of the pleasure of adorning his pieces. Flowers, foliage, and stems would coil around the sides of his vases and around the handles. But it seems that early on, Delaherche no longer agreed to adornments that were external to the essential lines of his vases. Increasingly, he sought beauty in the forms and proportions, in the splendor and delicate nuances of the overlapping and overflowing enamel flows. While acquiring more knowledge, he became more powerful, broader, and simpler. And his enamel decorations, masterfully calculated based on experience - not obtained haphazardly in the kiln, as many people believe - are incorporated into the material. It was logical that this predominant concern for form led Auguste Delaherche, in 1904, who, until then, like most ceramists, had relied on the services of a turning worker, to turn his own pieces.
From now on, no more repetitions, series, or mechanically repetitive forms, between which only the decoration would establish differences. When it is a practitioner who turns, since the creative artist cannot provide a new design for each vase, inevitably, there is a certain monotony or coldness in repetition. But when it is the artist himself who sits at the wheel and works with the clay, inspiration comes to him as he handles the earth. In the mirror where he looks at the work emerging under his fingers, he sees new forms emerge, which he accentuates further, establishing harmonies and proportional lines that he enhances according to his inspiration. Under his hand, which molds, swells, opens, lengthens, or lowers it, the vase becomes the supple expression of a personal thought.
As the car brings me to the rustic house, clearly and harmoniously arranged for the labor of such an artisan, with his workshops, kiln, and pleasant "room" where one converses among the paintings of artist friends and the beautiful iridescent pots of the master of the house, Auguste Delaherche emerges from his garden where, while cultivating flowers, fruits, and a variety of vegetables with beautiful shapes and graceful curves for his own joy, he constantly seeks guidance from nature with an admiring tenderness. Clad in a blue canvas garment that molds his elegant majesty, under a soft-fitting black felt hat on his powerful head, the vigorous patriarch of French ceramics comes to me, his eyes black, sharp and gentle, with a kind smile. It is not the time of the grand annual firing when the artist bakes all his preparations for the year, accompanied by some anxieties during the helpless forty-eight-hour wait!
But I see the clay taking the form of his dream under his fingers. I see Delaherche carefully choosing, from one of the countless jars where calculated splendor resides, the secret enamel mixture that, properly applied around the neck of a vase, will inundate its sides with sumptuous flows when the flames of the kiln do their work later on. After that, in the workshop, where he sits at a table filled with small bowls, he works on the decorations that will embellish his delicate porcelain. We talk, Delaherche and I, about art and literature, for a long time, peacefully, while he skillfully engraves, according to a carefully established design, the most charming of crowns on the side of a well-prepared earthenware vase. Witnessing with what skill, joy, and sense of beauty this master decorator inscribes the lace into the clay, I imagine the meritorious sacrifice he made by renouncing the ornamental adornments of his stoneware to give them a more restrained and powerful magnificence.
But I also better understand why these charming perforated or engraved porcelains, where he can freely indulge his beautiful instinct as a decorator, are so many masterpieces that give the impression of being created with love.
Texte : GEORGES LECOMTE